Much respect to the late Katherine Mansfield. I dig her writing and
her crazy life adventures. Originally written for Literature during VCE where we had to adapt to Katherine’s style of writing… Or attempt to…
A Girl’s Play
On a Sunday afternoon Laney kneeled on the soft, green grass as she leaned over to pick a daisy from the pond. Her lush hair swinging back and forth – back and forth brushing against the dirt as a soft swirl of dust settled against her little black shoes. A bell on the tall clock tower tolled, a deep groaning noise.
Bringing her hands under her skirt, she swooped it over the edge of the seat – the hem of her dress puddling on the velvet floor. And like a little blue bird, she lifted her chin high, looking over the tall heads of the suited gentlemen, until finally she perched her chin in her hands staring through their bodies onto the stage. The audience hushed as the lights dimmed.
A spotlight signalled the gentleman in the black suit to take careful steps from behind the curtains towards the mahogany desk, careful steps – getting him nowhere. Soaking in the lilting essence of the leather that wafted from the chairs he suddenly stopped. Her breath caught and she gave a tiny yelp. Falling, falling – he dropped on all fours like a suited cat. Thud! “Oh no! The tragedy!” he crawled!
A woman sneezed nearby, her wrinkly, shaking hands reaching into her coat sleeve. Laney, startled, turned calmly back to the stage, only to have her eyes caught by the sight of a woman elegantly leaning into the giant man, gazing dreamily into his eyes as he whispered into her hair. Laney blushing a deep crimson – shook her head as her soft curls gently fell around her face, framing perfectly. With a skilled flick of her wrist, she released the yellow lolly, puckering her lips as she turned towards the stage once more.
The crawling man stretched a long arm, reaching the lowest desk drawer, tenderly drawing it open. The actor gently patted the affected wood until he found a little black piano. The gentleman opened the piano case – looking deeply upon the aged yellow keys, and howled out like a wounded animal. Hunched and towering over the little piano that was too small for him now, the man played. Seas of people snorted with terrible shrieks of laughter ruthlessly engulfing the ugly piano noises that spurted from the stage floor. Oh! How it ached. How terribly it ached! Her lips trembled and her eyes quivered – but she mustn’t cry. Oh no, she mustn’t.
You see, she too had a little black piano gathering dust on a shelf – the keys grown stiff and the strings brittle from years of disuse. With a quivering, unsteady hand, she would pry the piano lid open with a creak before it snapped shut with a clap. She liked to dream, though. With floating clouds of thoughts echoing through her mind, uncaught, what it must be like to play again.
The lights flickered on swallowing the entirety of the room as the curtains slithered down with a hiss. The audience broke into applause, the sounds of their hands like relentless drops of rain pattering against a rooftop. Like a bird about to take flight, Laney leaned forwards, with the tip of her toes pressing hard against the floor, before turning to leave the room. Laney walked closer towards the tall opened oak doors that welcomed her as the bitter warmth bid her farewell. The perfectly dull light revealed her golden strands of hair struggling to be noticed among the grey. The crevices and folds of skin starkly coming forth like a draggled weight on the frail body – covering like a veil that shielded the expired youth that was herself.
Running up to the lady was a little girl with an impish smile, the juices of strawberries dribbling fast down her face – the bliss of the child only merely reflected in the old lady’s eyes. The lady reached down to the child, only to grab a handful of air as the child turned to run back into the room. Hobbling, the old lady reached her seat, falling fast and hard into the seat.
The curtains rising fast, revealed the man once more. The man entered the stage in a black suit – his slick hair pooling against his red face. His eyes glazed, yet emotionless. Clasping his chest, so silently, vulnerably – Laney could feel the blood running through his veins like a clam of steam rushing out of a boiling kettle. The bulging vessels on his forehead pulsing so violently. And his hands, oh his hands! Clammy and shaking! Shutting her eyes tight, but never tight enough. Had he lost his wife? Yes, he had indeed! The tragedy! Oh, the tragedy!
Laney had also lost a lover. The doctor pressing her hands hard against her lover’s back as the terrible cough of his clawed out of his chest like a frenzied cat trying to claw its way out of water. The wheezing sound he had made was Life itself heaving out of him in one final gush. Silently that night she let the curtains fall and stored away her piano one last time.
The man in a terrible fit of despair, showed nothing as he paced the length of his room. Finally, one silent tear escaped his empty gaze. It’s drop shattering into a thousand shards of liquid emotion – he quickly placed a finger and absorbed what was left. The gentlemen in the crowd tried to conceal their despair as they held fast onto their lovers with their blubbering faces.
Laney wrapped her arms around herself as a smother of warmth blanketed her as she stared desolately into the perpetuating darkness of the room. Is it possible to feel so completely and irreparably vacant even in the midst of a crowd? She watched the actor take a worn coat from a hook, placing it on himself before retiring from the room. The curtains fell and the audience applauded and soon Laney was left cradling herself. The little impish girl ran up to the old lady, tugging on her dress. ‘Are we leaving yet, granmama?’ said the little girl. The corners of Laney’s mouth drooped as she looked towards the door. ‘You rud along first, by little dear. Gradmama must stretch out her joints.’ said Laney with an affected drawl.
As she hobbled to the tall oak doors, the chilling air brushed against her as she shivered. She looked back one more time towards the silent stage, as her sigh was carried away with the bitter wind.